Why are punitive damage awards considered controversial?

Punitive damages are controversial to some because many fear that a runaway jury can get carried away and impose an astronomical figure on a defendant that represents a windfall to a plaintiff. The fundamental purpose of tort law is to compensate the plaintiff for the harm he or she has suffered, not to provide plaintiffs with large punitive damage awards. On the other hand, supporters of the tort system respond that without large punitive damage awards available, wealthy corporate defendants in tort cases are nominal and punitive damwould simply figure damage to potential plaintiffs as a cost of doing business and not modify their tortious behavior.